The HMCS Protecteur was guided into a pier at Pearl Harbor on Thursday morning. Chris Brown/CBC
HMCS Protecteur was towed into Pearl Harbor today, after a fire in the engine room last week caused the vessel to lose power several hundred kilometres northwest of Hawaii.
The Esquimalt, B.C.-based ship was being towed by a U.S. navy ocean tug, and the week-long trip was hampered by rough seas and broken tow lines.
The crew on the ship had been relying on generators to supply power to the galley and living areas after the fire knocked out power to the vessel.
Crew members injured in fire
About 20 crew members suffered minor injuries — including dehydration, exhaustion and smoke inhalation — after a fire broke out in the engine room on Feb. 27 around 10:20 p.m. PT.
Crew member Andre Aubrey was conducting personnel and equipment training in the engine room when he says the generator caught fire right in front of him.
"If you can picture a blanket covering everything over top of you and ... you're turning left and right and it's just fire over top of you. You've got to crouch down because you're starting to feel the layers of heat."
"At that point, I was just screaming, fire, fire, fire."
Aubrey says he and other personnel nearby quickly took action to put the fire out. He grabbed a CO2 extinguisher and aimed it at the flames.
"It was so hot. I had to crouch on my knees. The fire was over top of me, and I had to turn on the CO2, direct the fire down, and when the fire's directed down, I just stayed on my knees the whole time," he said.
"At one point, it looked like the fire was out, so I eased off a touch to see if it was out, and it started immediately reflashing, igniting again."
Aubrey says he continued extinguishing the flames until the CO2 bottle ran out, causing the flames to reignite. He told other personnel it was time to get out, and ran toward the control room to tell other officers what was happening.
"All I could see was figures. The control room was already smoked up. ... People screaming, trying to get control of the plant and trying to establish things."
The fire was eventually extinguished. Senior officers from the base in Esquimalt and investigators were on the pier as the ship was towed in on Thursday. The investigation into what caused the fire is expected to begin shortly.
Family members on board too
At the time, Protecteur was returning from operations with the U.S. navy in the mid-Pacific. The ship was carrying 279 crew, 17 family members and two civilian contractors.
On Tuesday, the family members who were on board the ship for the final leg of its journey, arrived at Pearl Harbor on board a U.S. destroyer.
National Defence said earlier that having family members on board for the final part of such a voyage is a common practice with navy ships returning from extended operations and exercises.
Protecteur, launched in 1969, is one of two auxiliary oil replenishment ships in the Canadian navy.
The military announced in October that Protecteur and its sister supply ship on the East Coast, HMCS Preserver, will be retired in 2015. Construction of new supply ships is expected to begin in late 2016, with a target of having them in service by 2019-20.
CBC reporter Chris Brown tweets from Pearl Harbor
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